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Managing the flu

All Areas > Health & Beauty > Medical Health

Author: Kirsty Lilley, Posted: Monday, 18th December 2023, 09:00

Flu, also known as influenza, is caused by a virus that infects the respiratory tract comprised of the nose, throat and lungs. It shares many of the same symptoms as the common cold, but with some marked differences.

The most telling difference is the speed with which the flu comes on, with bodily aches and pains and a high temperature that can leave you feeling low for some weeks. The flu is caught by breathing in infected droplets of air, which have been breathed out via coughing or sneezing by another person who is already infected.

The droplets can also land on hard surfaces and survive for around 24 hours, which means it is a good idea to wash your hands regularly to avoid picking up the virus this way.


Unfortunately, viruses are not able to be treated with antibiotics, but there are ways to ease the symptoms. It is also important to ensure you take up the option to have the flu vaccination where appropriate, especially if you have other conditions which make you more vulnerable to effects of the flu such as heart problems, kidney or liver disease, or a lower immunity due to disease or treatment.

In the UK, the flu vaccine is given to people who are 65 and over, including those who will be 65 by 31st March 2024, have certain health conditions, are pregnant or are in long term residential care. Check on the NHS website for other qualifying criteria and when children can receive the vaccine.


Symptoms of flu can come on very quickly and can include a sudden high temperature, an aching body, a headache, sore throat, and dry cough. Symptoms in children are similar, but they can also complain of earache and may be noticeably more lethargic than usual.

Ways to help yourself

Get plenty of rest and keep warm.
Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.
Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to keep aches and pains at bay and reduce your temperature.

Remember to check for contraindications with any current medications you take and remember that many over-the-counter flu remedies contain paracetamol. It is important not to exceed the recommended dose of any medication.

Try to stay at home and, if possible, avoid contact with others, especially those with health conditions which may make them vulnerable.


There are some measures you can take to minimise the risk of catching the flu, for yourself and others. Be careful when you encounter someone who has the flu – wash your hands with antibacterial soap often and avoid touching your nose or eyes, as the virus can easily enter the body this way.

Use antibacterial spray to wash down hard surfaces, especially in areas which are highly communal – door handles, kitchen surfaces and living areas, for example. Take care to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze with a disposable tissue and bin it immediately.

If you are concerned, contact your GP and remember that your pharmacist is also a good source of information and support.

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